I’ve just been stunned and inspired by the virtuosity of Jake Simabukuro. So much so that I have to share this blast of inspiration with you. Jake is not a photographer — at least not that I know of. Rather, he is a ukelele player.

That’s right, Jake plays the most humble and, I dare say, most laughed-at, member of the guitar family. I have tripods that are bigger than his 4-stringed mini-guitar. Yet, his passion, his total commitment to his craft sets Jake apart. Above, you can watch Jake play Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Below, you can watch him play George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ Prepare yourself to be stunned and inspired. I’ll wait.

So the next time you feel you have to spend more money to get a piece of gear, stop. Ask yourself if the transaction will truly make you a better photographer. Then ask yourself what you can do with the gear you have already. My friend, Tim Smith at Canon USA, said recently “NO camera is better than its user.” A stunning philosophy. Embrace the fact that your skill and your passion are the keys to becoming a better photographer — not the value of the gear in your bag.

For more about Jake and his music, check out his website > http://jakeshimabukuro.com. Support his passion. Buy his album there. It’ll be the best 10-bucks you’ve ever spent on your photography. If you want to hear Jake live, check out his tour schedule here. And yes, Jake’s on Facebook and Twitter.



12 Responses to How The Ukulele Busts A Hole In The Myth That Better Gear Will Make You A Better Photographer

  1. Ron says:

    Inspiring! Thanks for posting. Check out Bela Fleck too… he's brought the banjo out of the hills playing beautiful classical and jazz tunes.

  2. I'm hoping that the purchase of a new extra speedlight is not applicable to the meaning of this post ;)

  3. stakx says:

    Your point is well taken about gear…

    However, the ukulele Jake Shimabukuro (spelling!) is a custom-made instrument. (A limited-edition run was priced by the manufacturer at $5,500. Source: the internets) Take a look at the Kamaka Ukulele site and realize that there's a huge difference between the souvenir shop P.O.S. and the instrument a professional musician would use.

    Similarly, there's a huge difference between a professional photographer's camera and a disposable. (Of course, in the right hands, a disposable camera could capture great images, and Jake Shimabukuro could make a souvenir ukulele sing.)

    • Syl Arena says:

      Stakx — You get my point exactly. Jake can make a custom-made, expensive ukulele do amazing things. That same ukulele in my hands would sound no better than the toy version from Wal-Mart. However, if Jake were to pick up a toy ukulele, I bet he could make amazing music with it too. Ultimately, it's the musician, not the instrument. Likewise, it's the photographer, not the camera.

  4. John Wirick says:

    Love the analogy, Syl. Oh, yeah… Jakes pretty much rocks, too.

  5. Bob Ray says:

    Cameras don't take pictures. People do.

    I confess that if I hear, "Great pictures. What kind of camera do you use?" one more time …

    While I acquiesce that today's technology allows an unprofessional public to take impressive images, there is a considerable distance between snapshot and photograph; all of which is user-defined.

    Nobody asked Ernest Hemingway what kind of typewriter he used. And lived to tell the tale, anyway.

    Jake's virtuosity shines on his instrument from his talent; not from his instrument. We play the cards dealt to us at the moment and through all moments in our lives. Complaining about the cards won't improve your hand. Or the end result.

    'Loved the post, Syl.

  6. Bob Abela says:

    A message that deserves repeating from time and again. Jake's performance held my attention from start to finish…very moving piece. Best, Bob

  7. Jorgel says:

    Great post and so true. I've seen some amateurs shooting top-of-the-line Nikon D3x at a location I was at and the resulting images would not have even made it to MY memory card, nevermind take home. I've also seen some images made with a film Nikon FN that were stunning. It is about the photographer. Granted: the equipment will make the task you wish to accomplish easier, but it won't do it for you. YOU must have the vision

  8. Dave says:

    I've seen Jake and have a few CD's of his.. Just a great musician..

  9. Doug says:

    Thanks for sharing this link. He is very impressive. But I must take exception to your statement implying Jake's not using "better gear" just because it is a Ukulele. Jake has a VERY fine ukulele; don't kid yourself. Of course, I'm not disagreeing with your point. I just think you might be perpetrating an assumption that all ukes are toys.

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